A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Michael Connelly is the best-selling author of 27 novels. With more than 58 million copies sold worldwide, this prolific crime-writer took his cues from the dark world of the hardboiled detective, made famous by Chandler and Hammett, bringing them into a present that is just as, if not more so, filled with corruption and depravity.
The brooding Hieronymus Bosch, a character that has lived in Connelly’s imagination for the better part of two decades now, is finally making his way onto the small screen in Bosch – out on DVD October 7.
How does it feel to see something that has been such a huge part of your life, for so long, be transformed on screen for interpretation?
It’s an “about time” type reaction. It’s had a long sorrowful journey through Hollywood – to finally have it made is incredible. Bosch was started more than 20 years ago, so it’s great to have it happen. The interesting thing is that, during all that time I kept writing about him so there’s more material, the character means more to me – as you just said he’s been a big part of my entire writing life. So, you know, I did this with a lot of caution and I think we did a good job and I’m really proud of it and I think it was worth waiting for.
So the first episode seems to be a reimagining of sorts from Concrete Blonde and City of Bones, for the main plot. How do you decide what books were used for the show?
In the books Harry is very internal – you’re in his point of view and his thoughts – which you can’t translate to the screen. He’s not a guy who likes to say a lot or reveal himself, so Eric Overmyer who is the show runner, went through the books and chose – along with me – the books he thought would be best to establish the character. The Concrete Blonde – in our pilot he has to take the stand in the courtroom and be asked questions. So it was a device to reveal his history – parts of it and some of the damage that he carries inside.
City of Bones involved the case of a child who was forgotten by the system , his bones are found and we thought that would be a perfect case to reveal a personal connection to Bosch. He came from a background where he was more or less disposed of by society and so all the choices were based on how best to serve the presentation of Harry Bosch in the first season.
How much control over the screenplay do you have?
Contractually, I don’t have any involvement in all the episodes. In terms of writing and editing I share credits on 3 of the 10. I don’t think there was a single episode that I don’t do some rewriting so I’m very much involved. I kind of created a group of people that revered Bosch and want to do right by him and that translates to not disappointing me. So I don’t really need a Veto Power or any kind of control. If I say “that doesn’t feel right or that’s not what Harry Bosch would say ” they would listen.
But there’s nothing on this first season that I’m upset with or I wouldn’t have done – so I guess that translates to a lot of control but it’s also control that I haven’t had to exercise.
I read somewhere that there are character elements of your own self within Bosch – is this true?
Well yes, in the books. I’ve been writing about him for almost 25 years so it’s impossible to keep yourself entirely separate. So it really depends on what book you read. The early books he was not like me at all – because I wanted to write about someone whose not like me at all. But overtime, We start sharing stuff, we happen to have children the same age – that’s the main connection, of parenthood I think… is really strong there. So I think with that as a foundation, we share a world view that’s similar.
So is this the screen adaptation of Bosch that you had envisioned? Is this the character that you had created?
My priorities going into this was that we get the character of Bosch and the city of LA right.
The tone of the city that’s in the books, and I think we’ve done that to a great extent. Having said that, it is different from the books. It’s a different world. In the books you’re inside Harry’s head – you know what he’s thinking. In the show you get a lot of that through his dialogue and through his eyes – especially his eyes – which are very expressive about the inner damage and demons and so forth. But it is a different animal and because we’re filming in contemporary LA with an actor that is 50 years old – you loose things you know. The Harry Bosch of the books is much older – he was in Vietnam – where there’s no way a 50 year old guy could have been in Vietnam, so we changed some of the history and that comes out as we go through the seasons. When Harry was 50 years old he didn’t even know he has a daughter yet (book) in this, his daughter is 14 years old and he has a relationship with her. So we take happenings and stories from across the books – that span 25 years – and putting them into one story in the first season that takes place over 4 weeks of contemporary LA.
How do you begin each story for Bosch? Do you have an ultimate timeline for his story? Or is each one a natural progression in terms of the long-game for Bosch?
I hope there’s a long game. I try to make the books very contemporary so I don’t really think about what I’ll be doing in 2019 or 2020 because it will be a different world then. The main thing is that each book moves in chronological order, each book is set in the year I wrote it and that gives me the ability to reflect on what’s happening, in the city of LA and in society. And in my country there is all this attention paid to police and shooting and it’s a very big issue at the moment, so I’ve been incorporating that into the Bosch book that I’m writing right now. That’s generally the way I go.
So you draw inspiration or contemplation from the current climate?
Yes questions about how our police are trained and deal with minorities and so forth, really underline how difficult a job it is. Ultimately even though it’s a bad time society-wise, it’s good for me writing about a guy who does not get internally corrupted and still sticks to a code where it counts. What I’m trying to do is draw a reflection of that. That this is what’s going on in the world but at the centre of all of that, is a very difficult time and a very difficult job and this guy is just trying to do his best and be relentless and be undaunted.
Existing in this universe – how do you separate or draw away from Bosch to write other novels? Have you ever had a blurry moment between reality and a fictional world.
I don’t really think the lines of reality and fiction are blurred for me. It’s pretty much a craft and a dedication to it. I take true stories and true anecdotes and put them in my stories. So I’m always collecting those and spending time with the kind of people I write about – detectives and lawyers and so forth. It seems to me – my career and my goals as a writer are all wrapped around Harry Bosch, but sometimes I need to recharge batteries on that and so almost any time I’m not writing about Harry Bosch, it is because I’m writing about Harry Bosch. I might be taking a break or playing with new characters but even sometimes those books might be more popular than the Bosch books.
Were you just waiting for this opportunity to depict Bosch in a tv series as opposed to a film due to the long form narrative which gives more fidelity to the novel?
I’ve had bad luck and good luck. Twenty years ago I sold my first few books to a studio in Hollywood and they tried to make films and nothing ever came of it past the script stage. But they paid me, so they owned the character for a number of years. So almost 12 or 13 years went by before I could get them back. In that period of time is when television became this long-form nirvana where the series worked which lends itself to what I’m doing with Bosche. So it was disappointing that nothing ever happened, but then by the time that I got the books back, I was in the golden age of TV so I didn’t even think about film at that point, I just wanted to find a partner that shared the same vision I had for Harry Bosch and went from there.